André and Me – A moment between worlds with Portland’s RAC

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Photo courtesy of Nashville Nights

It’s 10 minutes before the interview and my phone rings to my dismay. The basement of Winkenwerder was not where I wanted to talk shop with one of my favorite musicians. But there I stood, with a piece of TP in one hand and a buzzing cell phone in the other.

“Shit,” I mutter – fully intending my pun as I answer the Texas caller ID.

“Hey there!”

“Hi, I’m calling for your interview with André. I know it’s not for another ten minutes but he’s ready now and we’d love to get started.”

“Of course!” I grin as it starts to feel real. Standing with my pants half-pulled up, I remember my situation. “Erm… Can I call you back in 5 minutes? I just need to get everything set up.”

“Yeah sure. I’ll call you then.” Click.

I fasten my belt, swing my pack over my shoulder and head out into the hallway – frantic to find a spot to sit in relative silence. Behind a giant stump that looks like it was cut from a forest a millennia ago, I slump over and attempt to set up my audio recording equipment before my phone rings again.

“Ready?” He asks.

“Ready as I’ll ever be,” I respond with slight hesitation as my recording fails to start. A familiar voice is heard on the line and some light indie rock can be heard in the background.

It’s about time Portland grew up

From his home studio in Portland, Oregon, André Anjos talks about the last six years of his life living in the eccentric city. “I feel like a local,” he states first off, “and I love it here.” He goes on to explain that the city has been changing “like crazy” just like the Bay Area and Seattle. Referencing a recent trend in real-estate listings, he laughs about seeing “No California”-stickers, “as if that would dissuade people from moving here.”

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Photo courtesy of Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

“People are complaining,” he goes on to mention. “They’re saying that a lot of things that made Portland unique is getting lost.” Although he really has appreciated the “amazing food” and “interesting things” in the city, André wants Portland to grow up a bit. Hesitating, he puts off the rest of his answer – stating that he might have a better opinion in a couple of years.

Portland, prisons and college

“Everything post-college has been here in Portland,” André goes on to say. “Well, sort of. I spend more time at the airport than at home.” We laugh.

“A couple of friends moved here.” His buddy, Karl Kling, had a girlfriend out here in college and they had a place to move. Rent was “cheap” – at the time it was $500 a month. Coming from a life at Greenville College in Illinois, this was quite the change.

“Three thousand people in the town were prison inmates and they counted that as part of the population,” he laughs. “It was a very small town and a dry town!” He had never heard of something like that before, especially since coming from Portugal, where the drinking age is fourteen.

When asked about his major, André couldn’t help but make a few jokes. “I got a music business degree, which is hilarious.” Greenville college was in the middle of nowhere and the Portugal native decided to learn about music from a bunch of old Illinoisans. “Maybe some basic knowledge came in handy,” he continues, trying to give some credit to his education. “But the music industry changes every year and you’re learning information that’s five years old in college.”

So, in school, he learned how the music industry used to work. “I guess you could say I earned a music business history major,” we laugh again.

The idea of RAC, what happened to the collective

“From the beginning, we wanted to be a group of people that all do remixes under one name,” he explained. “We could gather some talent and do it as a group as opposed to an individual person doing on your own.”

“How did that work out?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

“You know when you’re in a group project and you’re the one person doing it all?” He asked rhetorically. “Well, I was doing it all. A lot of people had jobs and real obligations – I was just in school.” So André took over the project and started doing everything under the same name, Remix Artist Collective.

“The name stuck and I kind of ignored it. When I started touring, I brought Karl who started DJing with me.” The definition of the name, he went on to explain had started changing during those tours until it stopped meaning anything. As he moved into producing original music, it ceased to make any sense but, “at one point,” he explains, “I decided that I spent six years of my life building this brand… I’m just gonna stick with it.”

“It’s called RAC,” he concludes. “It doesn’t mean anything – it doesn’t matter.”

Now that things have developed and he’s become a writer of original music, the name has unintentionally become a point of confusion. He’s now writing with other people, covering tracks with his wife and has even produced original music for the HBO series, Entourage.

Independence, album woes and staying relevant

"I feel like I put out a track every week,” André says. “A lot are remixes but… it’s just easier to focus on a song at a time and just put [that one] out.” Since recording his album in 2011 and having to wait three years for the record label to approve the content for legal and distribution reasons, RAC has taken a step back from the traditional record deal.

“After the album came out, I didn’t really feel like it was relevant to do that in 2015,” he says of the album’s long release schedule. As of June 2015, a month after getting out of his contract, André has been dropping music at least once a month with a staggered release schedule. From single tracks to lyric videos, these regular releases are his way of “keeping [his] head above the noise.”

“There’s a lot of amazing work, and a lot of mediocre work out there… [the internet] is so incredibly saturated [with it]. Fortunately, a thing I got used to with remixes is getting to do things very quickly.” Despite the constant work, André is satisfied with this new methodology as, “with a waiting period that was once three years is now two months at the most.”

When discussing the success of his album, he reminisced but responded contritely, “the music doesn’t represent who I am anymore. You have three years of built-up expectations and when they don’t go in [the way you want], it’s so frustrating.”

Making music, with new singles and successes

Last month’s single, “3AM feat. Katie Herzig” (embedded below) has been quite the success – garnering almost half a million plays in the weeks since its release. When I asked him how he felt about this, André answered estatically, “I feel like we’re gaining momentum and people are catching on to what we’re doing. We compare numbers a lot since we’re doing things independently. Keeping my eye on it [lets me] make sure things are going well. I think it’s been a very fun game to get into that that, [especially] in these last couple of tracks.”

With all the data analysis that he and his team had been doing, I followed up by asking why he still makes music. Despite a somewhat-programmatic release schedule and metrics to understand their success, RAC manages to keep the soul in the music.

“So who do you make music for then?” I asked, “Your numbers? Your fans? Yourself?”

“Myself,” André answered, “Absolutely.” Stating that he continues to make music “purely for [his] own entertainment,” the man just wants to be happy with what he does. As it turns out a big part of him being happy is making others happy!

“I’m not just stroking my beard, happily listening to my own music,” he says. “For one, I don’t have a beard and I see it as kind of a game and it’s my job and it’s something to have fun with.” His goal is to “keep going” as he’s noticed the music is “creating an outlet for this weird desire [to] ‘have to make music’ and want[ing] to keep that going.”

“Part of growth is being heard and having people listen to your music,” he says. For André it seems that this is the core of the game. “Artists that say it doesn’t affect them are lying,” he continues. “If a lot of people are stoked about your song, it really affects you.”

In regards to his fans, he said “it feels good when sometimes people will leave really kind messages like, ‘hey this helped me out during this time of my life’.” He hears me smile through the phone and continues, “I don’t sit down and write songs to help people in that way, but it’s a really nice validation.”

Building a synth and making some music

In addition to his solo work as RAC, André still finds time to record music with his wife, Liz. “There was this goal on the surface to release [them] as a free track to celebrate when we hit milestones on social media,” he says of the covers (check them out on soundcloud). “There’s obviously a selfish side of it and it’s a fun project.” Aside from the benefits of recording for fun, he also has been grateful for the opportunity to be creative in a way he hadn’t tried before. “Working with Liz is also really fun,” he sums up, “even though we live together, we rarely collaborate.”

In his home studio in Portland, the electronic musician mostly uses physical instruments, “whether that’s a synth, drum machine, guitar, bass… I have a lot of toys and I just work [here],” he says. “It’s a really nice balance with the touring and, when I’m not touring, it’s good to be home.”

When it comes to his own production, André just “feels more comfortable” playing an instrument rather than programming music on the computer. “You can create exclusive items that you just can’t make on a computer since most people don’t have [the same] instrument,” he explains. “You create a unique sound that’s impossible to replicate.”

“The problem is that I can’t work when I’m travelling,” he continues. “I can’t fix a mix or something when I’m on the road, which can be frustrating.” Despite his long time spent on the road, the remix artist still finds time to come home and write original music on his modular synthesizer. “I’m a building a modular synth,” he says excitedly. “It started with one box and now I have five. It’s so much fun and it’s so nerdy!”

Yet the synthesizer has been more than a toy in André’s creative process. With it’s inspirational aesthetic and pleasantly unique sound, the modular synth has become a “magical machine”:

You turn the lights on and it’s blinking. It gets really heady sometimes when I have to think about every wire. But it creates a situation where a lot of unexpected things can happen. Most of the time they’re very positive things, like happy accidents – you can stumble upon a sound. It’s a magical machine. There’s so much potential that sometimes it’s too much… but it’s great because of that.

After geeking out about gear, it’s easy to become existential in describing the sound of an instrument. So André concludes, “I’m very into the studio and that whole process. I’d say I probably enjoy recording music just as much as I do writing it.”

Inspiration and dedication, some advice for new artists

The PR rep’s voice came over the line, “Hey guys. We’re running kind of behind so this could be the last question or so.” Looking at my notes, I grew excited as I read, “Which relatively new musicians have you been listening to or enjoying lately?”

Immediately, André answered, “A decent amount of people know Pomo. He’s a guy from Montreal and it’s just a breath of fresh air compared to the EDM, droning military march stuff. I really like it. His remixes are really top notch and I always check them out and add them to our set.”

I followed up by asking what advice he could give new electronic artists. He answered:

I think it’s important to learn how a lot of these sounds are created, specifically for electronic artists. If you learn the basics and understand synthesis, it’s going to go a long way. You can’t do the production tricks if you don’t know it. Learn the basics of recording and avoid presets. They are an easy way to get a specific sound that sounds good but then there’s everybody else and they’re using the same thing. If you can distance yourself from that and try creating sounds from scratch, [you’ll find] you’ll especially know what you’re doing.

Another line could be heard coming into the phone call and André began to quickly finish up. “Musicians need to beat themselves,“ he said. "You don’t want to be somebody else since they already exist. You can be inspired by other people, but try to do something that, personally, you’d be.”

Be sure to catch RAC as he starts up his tour again, this week! André will be performing with Big Data at Seattle’s Showbox SoDo on November, 20th – expect hours of awesome from openers, Karl Kling and Filous.

As always, check back at the Rainy Blawg for a show preview/review from yours truly as the end of November draws ever nearer!

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DJ Desman

Quick, what’s cool? JUNGLE

We should kick it with Jungle.

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So these guys are not what I usually cover, lots like Doja Cat. They’re
funky and psychedelic and have this element of retro, disco dance pop, but they’ve
got soul. This isn’t all natural acoustic, it’s very artificial, but they’ve
got these reminiscent elements of other funky co cats like Electric Light Orchesta,
MGMT,
the Bee Gees, and maybe even Prince.

It’s hard to categorize. They are hard to put into a box. What do I want to say? Indie electro R&B? Modern
soul? I don’t you know, you decide for yourself.

“Time,” a track that I particularly like on
their 12-track debut album, Jungle
(which released just this past July), is on the lighter dance pop side of their
album.  I think their best part is their
chorus of  “Say it again/Just hold on tight/Don’t let in,
yeah/I’ll run alright/Don’t let me/Oh just let it out,” but not for their
lyrical creativity. This song, like every other song on the radio is computer
generated, filled to the brim with pinched falsettos, slap bass, and crazy
instrumentals. It’s euphoric and filled with funk.

These guys also just make great music videos!

And for the most part, that’s how a lot of this album works. I’m not
getting the sense that these guys really dig their fake horns and electric
funk. They like getting people to want to get up and groove. And  I dig that. What they do lack, however, is a
sense of creativity. Lyrically, it’s very repetitive, and even composition
wise, “Busy Earning” is so similar to “Time,” as is “The Heat” and “Platoon.”
It gets to all be the same.

Is this bad? Yes and no. Jungle is new duo, made up of childhood friends, Tom
McFarland and Josh Lloyd-Watson. They’ve been kicking it since they were nine
years old. I can sense the chemistry, and I’m glad the two are working
together, I like their vibe. Creatively, they have a long way to go,  but they’re old enough producers to realize
that the debut album that they do have is solid and work their way up

We do get a little something different when we hit tracks like “Drops” and “Julia.”
There’s some more bass in there, and instead of just dance funk, it’s gets a
little soulful and mournful. I love when “Drops” hits, “I’ve been loving you
too long.” I’m getting some tastes of Paolo
Nutini
-esque blues in there, and I like the turn from dance pop to some
serious soul.

“Julia,” is the best track on their debut in my opinion and I think a track
they put some serious effort it. I love the overlaying, faded vocals, that
goddamn organ playing in the background, and the rhythm they’ve got going. It’s
a little darker, it isn’t really a song to groove to, but it’s a lovesick,
lovelorn track where I can fully see where these guys are going. They’ve can do
downbeat jazz.

And their video, choreographically is amazing. These guys like modern
dance. Check it.

They’re disco, and they’re not really disco. They’re funk and soul and
electric. They’re party music at times, and then at other times, they’re jams
you have existential conversations to. They start their South American tour soon and I’m bitter I won’t be in Santiago, Chile jamming out, but I hope when they release some new grooves, I’ll be with them live.

Check out their album on Spotify. It’s a solid debut, they’re solid
Londoners. And they make solid music videos, which is what’s important, right?

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Ariana Rivera



Check out more music and news from Rainy Dawg Radio @ RainyDawg.org!

Show Review: Jessica Lea Mayfield Rocks the Croc

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An audience member stares wistfully at a television screen, modified to display “Evening Bell”

Above the restless crowd, Evening Bell entered the stage. Each of them brandishing their instrument of expertise, duo Hart Kingsbery and Caitlin Sherman stood confidently in front of drummer Jason Merculief and bassist Aaron Harmonson. The band picked up as the lights came on, harmonies ringing out over the Crocodile’s killer sound system!

Simple and sweet, the singers took turns leading us in song. Kingsbery’s guitar pierced through the air like jet streams in a clear blue sky while Sherman’s voice blended into the tone of her keyboard. The combination of her instrument and vocals created a clear contrast to the guitar’s distinct wavy-ness. Meanwhile, the keyboard’s piano-like tone generated a Jazzy demeanor above the Country-Western vibe.

Each song would begin with a guitar or piano riff, the sound of which would result in a cheer from the audience as they recognized their favorite tracks from this local band. While we sang and danced along to the frontmen, Merculief and Harmonson rocked out subtly from behind. Harmonson sported a cowboy hat and a big red bow tie, he smiled as his rhythms echoed through the small concert venue. Throughout the set, Merculief moved us through the various styles of music. His most amazing moments, however, stood out during keyboard and guitar solos. His beats reverberated below the dynamic synths and riffs, providing a solid basis for Sherman and her voice. Long instrumental moments also showcased the drums as they shifted in and out of focus.

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Evening Bell plays another hometown country duet

“Thank you so much for listening,” Sherman closed the show through a smile. “That was fun!” Kingsbury added. We cheered as they grabbed their television and left the stage.

As we waited for the headliner, the fog grew thicker and thicker. Seen through the haze, Jessica Lea Mayfield grabbed one of her five guitars and plugged it into her smorgasbord of pedals. Reverberating and intense, her guitar joined in with the bass until the entire band built to intensity. All the while, drummer Matt Martin, wearing a tattered collared shirt and drums, remained relaxed yet determined.

As the instrument turned up, Jesse Newport’s bass became distorted under Mayfield’s ever present guitar – her arpeggios ringing out between lamenting lyrics. They drew us in with inconsistent rhythm, possessing the presence of a poetry slam and the power of an arena show. Beneath her echoing voice, the three musicians rocked out to every chord progression under the sun.  

Their tone and musical expertise fit Seattle’s sound like an old glass slipper – their presentation like Nirvana if Kurt Cobain owned a pair of sparkly boots. 

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Jessica Lea Mayfield “and band” start off with a bang!

They played three songs in a row, each leading straight into the next. As a song would end the drums and bass would slow down on Mayfield’s cue. Turning around, she would play in tandem with her band – all three of them looking intensely at one another. As the last song fell to a silence, Martin and Newport quietly exited the stage.

“I’m gonna do a song by myself. It’s called ‘Party Drugs.’ It’s off my new record.” After explaining the origin to the song, she started back into the entrancing mix of guitar and vocals – sans bass and drums. A little more controlled, the solo song showed off Mayfield’s artistic control, manipulating the reverberation of her voice and guitar, relying on every resonating note to carry into the next.

After that song, the band joined Mayfield back on stage. She complimented the gentleman in the front for being so polite and, taking off her jacket and adorning another guitar, she amazed us as the lights reflected off her guitar strap and bright green eyes. Looking towards the audience, she saw through us all as we watched her emotions fly out above us.

After playing a new song called, “Seeing Stars,” Mayfield introduced Jesse Newport as her husband. As we cooed and Jesse picked up his guitar, Jessica lifted her head slightly to introduce the next song, “this is the first screwed up love song I wrote about him.” We laughed and cheered as we breathed the whiffs of red bull and vodka – a staple scent of the Crocodile dance floor. The lighting changed and Jessica’s melancholy lyrics picked up again with a song she couldn’t help but smile about. The two guitars layered themselves perfectly as Mayfield’s slow strokes accented Newport’s quick and rhythmic strums. “You’ve got a stranglehold on my heart,” she sang as she cleverly depicted the hardships of new relationships and their unforeseeable potential.

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Grunge rock and sparkles. Jessica’s studded strap shines brightly through the haze

In the front row, Jessica pointed out a couple who she thought was being particularly cute. “Looks like you had a good valentines day,” she said. “I’m gonna ruin that,” she quickly added. After our laughs subsided, she explained the meaning of her next song. “I spent some time trying to plan my death but then I wondered if I had enough time to do all the things I needed to do around the house first.” We laughed. “And that was enough time to write down a song about how ridiculous that was”

The music grew louder and the audience’s smiling and blushing diminished to head bobbing. The husband and wife stepped closer to one another, their instruments almost touching as they continued to play some “bummer shit,” as Mayfield later described. She played “I Can’t Lie To You” with her distorted black guitar. The guitar and bass shouted every note as each doubled the melody. The band broke into our consciousness with their impeccable song writing ability – each moment providing a dramatic contrast in sound from the last. The drums provided a segue between these distinct moments with their ability to move from loud to quiet with just one gradual cymbal.

After the song appeared to end – a short applause had followed – Jessica’s guitar tears through the speakers. The music picks up and continues until we’re begging for more. Unfortunately, there was only time for one more. The band played their last song, “No Fun” – their musical ability never faltering. The guitar seemed to have control over bass and drums, as each remained in sync with the Mayfield’s rhythm. The song ended cutely and cleanly as the musical married couple kissed during the last guitar solo.

In a true Valentine’s Day spirit, Jessica invited the cute couple she had previously called out up onto the stage. Nervously, the drunk audience members pulled themselves out of the crowed and joined Mayfield in the spotlight. She asked if they knew the words and the women nodded furiously in response. As the song began, however, it became obvious that her date may have forgotten a few lyrics. Mouth closed, he danced silently around the stage – at one point approaching the drums with a smirk, only to walk away sheepishly as the song subsided.

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Two excited audience members dance and sing along on stage for the encore performance

Through our laughs, Jessica closed the show. She even stayed around for a bit to drink with the crowd! Be sure to check out her website for new music, tour updates, and more!

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DJ Desman

Ani Joon Review: G-Eazy show & backstage Blizzy interview in Seattle!

Our very own Ani Joon attends a show, takes some pictures, and chats up a drummer. Check out her vlog-tastic review (above) and snaps below:

Image set by Ania Kamkar

HAPPY SoX DAY: Chance the Rapper & Social Experiment’s Short Film

here is a present: an excuse to take a quick break from studying and watch this 11 minute film by Austin Vesley.

featuring all my favorites, including Chance the Rapper, Donnie Trumpet, Peter Cottontale, Stix, Nate Fox and Macie Stewart, the short film details behind the scenes of the Social Experiment Tour. 

have a look:

i love seeing the guys (and Macie) open up, even if its on camera. the laughter and camaraderie makes you feel welcomed as a bystander and the fun and vibrant footage of their tour makes you feel like you’re actually with them.

i don’t know about you, but this made me laugh out loud. happy SoX day 🙂

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-gnovs

Show Review: The Black Keys Turn Blue World Tour @ KeyArena, Nov 1st

this. concert. was. insane.

being a biased Black Keys fan girl, i was amped about this concert to begin with, but they exceeded my expectations. first of all, the set list was beautiful:

  1. Dead and Gone
  2. Next Girl
  3. Run Right Back
  4. Same Old Thing
  5. Gold On The Ceiling
  6. Strange Times
  7. Nova Baby
  8. Leavin’ Trunk  *if you don’t know this song, go listen! i heard it for the first time at the concert*
  9. Too Afraid To Love You
  10. Howlin For You
  11. A Girl Like You – Edward Collins Cover
  12. Money Maker
  13. Gotta Get Away
  14. She’s Long Gone
  15. Fever
  16. Tighten Up
  17. Your Touch
  18. Lonely Boy

THEN, after about 5-10 minutes of agonizing anxiety, the black keys came back out for an encore. which was

  1. Weight of Love
  2. Turn Blue
  3. Little Black Submarines

needless to say, everyone in the arena was on their feet and screaming the lyrics by the second half of Little Black Submarines. the first half, Dan Auerbach sang and played guitar ballad style, and i’m pretty sure i felt a tear well up in my eye. then, because the duo couldn’t resist, the second half was a crazy headbanger and an amazing way to end the concert. 

the stage lighting was super dope as well. the coordination between the music and lights was well executed and required a serious amount of planning, respect. you can see that in some pictures i have, for example:


The combination of lights and setting was a perfect backdrop


The view from the nosebleeds

yeah, i had nosebleed seats, but it was worth it. if you ever get the chance to see the black keys live, i would recommend it. also, all the people there are cool because they have good taste in music and you all immediately relate to each other. 😉

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gnovs

Hungary, Hungry Huskies – One Night in Paris with Sondre Lerche

Heilman’s set sits absent while Lerche performers (Photo by Eric Sandoval)

Jesse Marchant created soundscapes right off the bat – his looping pedal catching every articulation and reverberation of his electric guitar. Slowly and softly, he approached the mic and the room quieted to the tune of Marchant’s serious smirk. The tiny room echoed with Jesse’s voice, the quitter never ceasing beneath. While his left hand fluttered, his right played effortlessly. As he blatantly switched guitars, the roomed murmured – the lights breaking through Marchant’s mess of unkempt hair and tattered instrument. His lyrics swallowed and swayed between dynamic shifts of instrumentation. On his own, Jesse’s guitar supported him beautifully as the stage shook in tandem.

He spoke to us in French, telling us how magnificent of an experience it was to play for the first time at this bar in Paris. The Montreal native grabbed his electric guitar once again and led himself to the drum set on the right of the stage. He played the two instruments in a syncopated manner, driving the rhythm forward with the bass and cymbals – his guitar building as he sang. We bobbed our heads in response the pain and passion of Marchant’s lyricism pulling us forward. Take a listen to his new album below to get a feel for this man’s heart and soul:

http://jbm-music.com/music

Calmly and carefully, he moved through his set, allowing the voice of his various instruments to shine through the darkness of his lyrics and the stage itself. Employing various techniques to repeat and reverberate his guitar, Marchant’s lyrics flew magnificently above the bass and treble. Nothing could limit the ardent performer as he tuned his guitar to the hum of his harmonica. Jesse stared intently into the audience, listening to our reactions to his humble voice.

Marchant’s set built up charmingly, lifting our heads into the air with love and acceptance. At the end of his set, Jesse spoke to us – struggling with the word “grateful” and the crowd translated in a chorus of a language I didn’t understand. They cheered in response to his beautifully fluid French. His last song was a fury of fingerpicking, exposing the expertise of this magical musician. He smiled at us between moments of intense focus and we nodded to the resounding rhythm in response.

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Accented articulations flow from the opener’s instrumentations (Photo by ES)

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Marchant slams on an electronic bass pedal

With a thunderous boom, the drums hit so hard my beer moved swiftly across the stage. Sondre Lerche’s voice rung out over a distorted guitar. A visceral performer, Lerche touched his telecaster delicately – his body moving in violent spouts of celebration. He danced behind his guitar and looked up occasionally to take in the screams of the fan girls (and boys) in the audience. “You wanna dance?” he yelled to joyous acclaim, the floor shaking to the beat of the drums. As our bodies swayed to the newest single, “Bad Law”, his hands moved as if he was directing a choir. He truly did as we sang along with him, clapping in tandem and smiling as we mirrored his emotions.

Sondre flipped his hair back and forth, dancing to his tunes as if he was in the audience himself. His complex chords did everything but phase him, yet they rang beautifully through the little speakers that blasted within the venue of Divan du Monde – a bar in the heart of Paris’ club district. Bassist Chris Holm echoed the choruses, allowing us to be drawn to the lyrical trance that Lerche had undoubtedly put us under.

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Lerche and Holm create a syncopated symphony

With each solo, the guitar became more distorted until, after the first two songs, he took the time to introduce himself and the tour – reliving the past of his “pre-intercourse phase” to “see what the hell was going on” during that period of time. The old guitar resounded the classic Lerche, his playing in this concert building upon the past of his Faces Down and Dan in Real Life days. The riffs of his first albums rang out clearly from the classic cutaway Gibson – the drums amplifying their fever and juxtaposing today’s sound with the sound of the artist’s past. The stream below gives you a listen at the early Sondre Lerche:

His voice lower than before, Sondre’s vibratos remained powerful over the fluttering bass and flirtatious guitar. The crowd jumped in jubilation, our screams sometimes louder than the performer’s voice as we sang along to songs like “Say It All” and “No One’s Gonna Come”. He quieted us down to hear us sing with him, his voice and guitar escalating to empowering heights – rocking out with Dave Heilman on the drums until our ears had finally adjusted to the new interpretations of his oldest albums.

He spoke frequently of his past performances in Paris. At one point he referenced a bar that has since burned down – according to one audience member who seemed to know a lot about the current state of the city’s club scene. After apologizing for our loss, he entered into a reflection of those tours, his guitar fiercer than ever before. Jazzy yet incomprehensibly intense, the band played the old songs anew and the crowd relived their experiences of when they first heard Sondre’s voice – whether in the clubs of Paris’ past or in the comfort of their own homes.

Strobes blazed as blue notes blew from the speakers and the rest of the band left the stage. Sondre stepped away from the mic and he let the room carry his voice. As our singing finally faded away, he yelled over his electric guitar – the close-cut walls intensifying the performer’s unamplified melodies. “My Hands Our Shaking” came to a close, unaccompanied. Unexpectedly, Lerche began to sing “Like Lazenby” at the request of an audience member – apologizing to the sound crew in the back for not telling them he would play it before-hand.

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Sondre looks longingly into the audience (Photo by ES)

To the tune of our synchronous claps, the band returned to the stage – reviving the scene’s intensity. As the drums joined in, we all realized just how coordinated the whole performance really was. “Sleep On Needles” was played in sync, Sondre’s sweat dripping from his brow. The crowd began to shout more requests than they could handle and his only response remained, “So many hits!” he exclaimed.

As he introduced the merchandise, Lerche advertised his opener and the passion in his eyes burst forward with every word. During the entire performance, Sondre remained as thoughtful of a person as he was off the stage. After the show, I got a chance to speak with him, to ask what the difference was between the recent album, PLEASE, and the rest of his repertoire. “Time,” he responded, “It was 15 years – 32, actually, depending on how you count.” He smiled.

“My style changed gradually as time went on, but also I looked at other artists and was inspired by their music. The way they sounded, there was no way that the way I was writing could sound like that. So, for PLEASE, I decided to look at other ways to design a song – with a desire to shake things up.”

He went on to say how much respect he had for Jesse Marchant and other artists as they helped him find a new way to create. This inspired creativity showed strongly as the lights lit up the stage to “Sentimentalist” – one of the tracks off of the new album. As the guitar became ever-more complicated, Sondre’s movements became more and more terse and tense – until solo breaks and bass build released enough energy to allow for him to relax.

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Laughing and singing, the man dances behind the mic (Photo by ES)

As Lerche bathed in the almost-transparent light of the stage, the crowd went wild as the drums introduced songs like “Lucifer” and other hits from PLEASE. Heilman’s break beats – along with Holm’s funky rhythms – provided the powerful foundation to frontman’s lyrics, allowing us to dance to the sultry sounds that described the newfound Sondre Lerche.

He joked with his limited knowledge of French before introducing a track off of his self-titled record, “Private Caller.” To much acclaim from the audience, Lerche performed the music which he played on his last European tour – this time, Paris would be his first stop in a series of many more performances to come. As quickly as he put it down, the telecaster flew from Sondre’s shoulders – only to be replaced, once again, by the Gibson guitar.

A familiar riff rang out and “Two Way Monologue” had begun, one of the artist’s most successfully singles. Chris’ “ooh”s and “ahh”s only added to the amplifying intensity as Dave and Sondre riled us up throughout the song. At the end, Lerche taught us the chorus and made us sing a solo for him in response to the already brilliant performances that the band had just spent the last few minutes “showing off”.

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Lyrics flow from a man of many words

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Lerche’s old guitar marked the movements of his past (Photos by ES)

With a smile on his face, the sweat-drenched performer played one of his latest tracks, “Legends” – leading us in cheers of “Oh”s and “Whoa”s. After a brief remission to the back of the stage, Heilman returned to the stage with an overpowering “Merci Paris!” And, as the lights went up, the Bergen, Norway natives – Lerche and Holm – appeared in their rightful places.

After a track that packed us in and made the floor shift and shake, the band left Sondre on stage – standing alone and asking for one final request. We sang with him to the final song of the Dan in Real Life soundtrack (featuring Steve Carrell, Dane Cook, and guest-artist Regina Spektor), “Modern Nature”. The crowd swayed and swooned as the lights faded on the stage before us.

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DJ Desman

Hungary, Hungry Huskies – St. Vincent Rocks a Boat (Show Review)

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Annie Clark and Toko Yosuda bow their heads to rock

I arrived with a throng of hip-dressed Hungarians, our eyes wide open as we entered the multicolored array of dance lights that can be seen all along the straight of the Danube. 7pm is, by far, the earliest many of us have ever been on the notorious party boat, who hosts concerts and events every couple of nights – a staple in Budapest’s night life. On October 18, as a part of cafe Budapest – a yearly autumn festival featuring contemporary art, music, and performances – St. Vincent graced the tiny venue with an electronic foray of musical magic.

As the lights dimmed, a robotic voice appeared through the haze. It called to us as fellow analog listeners and urged us to refrain from “digitally capturing our experience.” Luckily, I was able to meet a lovely Lithuanian before the performance to capture the moments I would have otherwise lost due to my phone’s presence in my pocket throughout the show.

The band came forth in tandem, the lights dark and dimmed by the fog-filled room. In a flash, St. Vincent began with “Rattlesnake” and “Digital Witness” – the lyrics of which matching perfectly with the earlier sentiment of experiencing the concert in person, rather than through the lens of a phone screen.

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A concentrated Clark focuses on the performance

After a brief pause, the soul-shaking guitar riff of “Cruel” rang through the air – its piercing alternations doubling that of the keyboard, just an octave below. During this song, the contrast between the natural and unnatural established itself as a main theme of St. Vincent’s performance. As each song built upon the last, Annie Clark and her band moved more and more robotically until we all could recognize the synchronized movements as an integral part of the show.

As the energy following “Cruel” faded (Clark waited patiently for our cheers to subside), Annie spoke of the things that “we had in common”. This song-break spoke like poetry, her words desperately pulling us towards what she wanted us to be: a child in an inescapable world. The break ended with an anecdote about us wanting to “jump from our beds” on a “parachute made of blankets.” And, even though we “landed on the carpet… on our knees, we never gave up hope!”

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St. Vincent tells us a story

Through our screams of consensus, the keyboard and drums spelled out the opening notes of “Marrow” whose chorus, “H. E. L.  P. Help Me. Help Me” rang through the mouths of two-thirds of the audience – demonstrating St. Vincent’s enormous following that must exist in Eastern Europe. After the show, I met with humans from all nationalities – Hungarian, Serbian, Lithuanian and the like. As we all intermixed within the 300 or so person crowd, we not only witnessed – but participated – in Annie Clark’s wildly orchestrated madness.

A director of the stage, Clark waltzed around through strobes and flares. The band’s movements lined up with every beat, flash of light, along with each other. When the moment came for her to remove her instrument, Annie approached the stage crew and they fluidly made the change in a coordinated measure. Every time the lights blacked out, the crowd would erupt in a thunderous boom – the noise of the audience multiplied by the ship’s steel enclosure.

As the lights came up onto the stage, the figure of St. Vincent stood asymmetrically in front of us. The music began to ebb and flow as “Jesus” began. The ballad broke the reoccurring pattern of digital imagery – the movements of the band and the lights behind them mimicking that of the wind or the ocean. The natural sounds became distorted in the crescendos of distorted guitar riffs that introduced “Chloe in the Afternoon” – the keyboardist, Toko Yasuda, joining Clark with her punching electric guitar. The song ended in a clustered mess of arpeggios and slammed strings, Annie approaching the edge of the stage multiple times to show off her ardent talents – playing the strings of the instrument like grass in a meadow.

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Yasuda leads the background vocals and harmony

After waiting again for the crowd to quiet, Clark continued her story about the times we had in common as a child. She spoke of a fire that we built when we were younger, and “as we watched it burn, we knew we were supposed to be scared but…” she inquired deeply, her words appearing naturally although they were obviously a perfectly practiced insight.

The set continued and, in-between the songs “Actor Out of Work” and “Birth in Reverse,” Annie Clark did nothing but amaze us with her skill and passion when the time came for her to play the guitar. The solos in “Surgeon” and “Prince Johnny” stood out as two the strongest instrumental moments I have ever heard. By the time “Birth in Reverse” tore through the speakers, the crowd was so riled up that the boat was literally shaking in time with the music. The band and the crowd sang in sync during ballads like “Cheerleader” – the natural colored lights blinding us until Clark had been reduced to nothing but a silhouette.

We became a part of the performance as the show evolved into what felt like a Black Sabbath concert on shrooms. Strobes flashed, heads banged, and – as the band shuffled and snapped – the worlds of modern art and classic rock collided in the storm that was “Bring Me Your Loves.”

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Powerful performers command the stage with their music and movements

Quicker than they came, the band snuck off the stage immediately after the final song. We chanted in a chorus for Annie yet their return to the stage only came after the audience dimmed its cheers in sadness that the show may already be over. Yasuda entered and smiled from behind a glass of water as Annie played from back stage. When Clark was finally illuminated by the light of the stage, she squinted over us into the back of the club’s smallest room before flying into the center of “Strange Mercy”’s complicated drum-line. At the end of it, she threw herself into the arms of the audience. Guitar in hand, Annie played above us. She passed off her guitar to the members of the front rows so that we could play for her as she held her head back in ecstasy.

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Photos by Vilius Kubekas – Facebook

When she returned to the stage, the leading women fell to her knees and crouched next to the beat-up Stratocaster. As she slowly lifted her head, a member of the stage crew adorned her shoulders with a new guitar, like a crown of thorns on a weary Jesus-like figure. She once again amazed us with her final solos strewn throughout the song, “Your Lips Are Red.” With the magic of the fourth wall already broken, nothing could stop us all from singing along and creating the music with the rest of the band. They soaked in our melodies and cheers as they held their heads high – taking a bow with smiles on their faces.

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DJ Desman